Bibelots and Improbable Baubles

Our founder George Headley is known as a jewelry designer and his passion later in life was for designing bibelots.  Pronounced “bib-a-loh,” bibelot is an antiquated French word meaning a highly decorative and ornamental object that is not necessarily functional.  Headley created many beautiful designs, each with its own fun story and history and many of which remain on display in our Jewel Room today.

“Birdcage” is one of George Headley’s bibelots on display at the Headley-Whitney Museum.

In the spirit of Headley’s passion, each year, we challenge sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students in Fayette County, Kentucky to create a faux bibelot.  Armed with lots of glitter, sparkles, glue, and tons of imagination, middle schoolers conceptualize and realize their own bibelot designs and then tell the story behind why they created their miniature masterpieces for our annual Improbable Baubles competition and exhibition.  Students compete not only for a chance to have their bibelots displayed in our Museum but also for cash prizes!

Improbable Baubles is an annual competition and is sponsored in partnership with LexArts.  Now in its fifth year, we have over 300 participating students from five schools across Fayette County.  Beginning in August, we visited schools to discuss the competition and to help students begin their projects.  Over the next two months, we anxiously waited to see what the students dreamed up.  Beginning last week, we finally got to see final bibelots when we visited each school for judging and to collect the top pieces to display at the Museum, and with all of the exceptional work that has been done this year, selection has been no easy task!  Over the next week and half, we will put the pieces and the students’ statements and sketches of their designs on display in our Museum in preparation for the grand opening on Friday, November 16 when the prize winners are announced.

In the spirit of the competition, we haven’t posted any of this year’s bibelot designs, but we can safely say that we are most impressed with what we’ve seen!  Check back after the November 16 opening to see this year’s amazing Faux Bibelots!

Improbable Baubles: Faux Bibelots from Fayette County Middle Schoolers will open on Friday, November 16.  Opening reception is FREE with a suggested $5 donation.  Light refreshments will be provided by Sav’s Chill.  The exhibit will be on display through December 23, 2012.  LexArts has provided funding support for Improbable Baubles through its Fund for the Arts.

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Spooky Treats!

October really begins the holiday season!  While our Holiday Head Start series was aimed at adults, we still wanted a workshop for both the young and the young at heart, so we decided to host Spooky Treats, a sweet, fun workshop for all ages!  Spooky Treats attracted candy-makers of all ages, and everyone had a blast!

Spooky Treats began with colorful painted chocolate molds.  Borrowing from one of our perennial favorite workshops, Painting With Chocolate, we used brightly colored white chocolate to decorate the inside of creepy molds—everything from spider webs, to mummies, witch’s fingers, jack-o-lanterns and moustaches!  When candymakers were done, they brought their molds into the kitchen where they got to watch it be filled with dark chocolate and put a lollipop stick in their mold before it was popped into the refrigerator to cool—so much fun!

Painted Chocolates

We wrapped the chocolates in plastic wrap hoping they’d make it home, but few did!

Next up were chocolate mice, treats as creepy as they were sweet!  Appropriately, a group of mice are sometimes called a “mischief,” and we made chocolate mischief of our own!  We dipped sweet maraschino cherries in dark chocolate before putting them on parchment paper and attaching a Hershey’s Kiss nose and almond ears!  Our mischief of chocolate mice cooled alongside our chocolate molds in the refrigerator while we decorated our sugar skulls.

Eek! Chocolate Mice as spooky as they are sweet!

Sugar Skulls are decorations found during Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead Festival traditionally celebrated in Mexico.  Despite its intimidating name, Dia de los Muertos is a bright, colorful, and happy celebration of life and loved ones who have passed on.  Sugar skulls are often brightly decorated with icing, brightly colored foils, sequins, and other adornments and traditionally pay homage to deceased loved ones.  We began making our sugar skulls several weeks before the workshop, molding our sugar skulls and then gluing them together using royal icing.  Participants decorated their sugar skulls with brightly colored royal icing and we were impressed with the designs that they dreamed up!

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We were both happy (and quite full of chocolate!) by the end of Spooky Treats.  We would like to thank our participants of all ages for coming to the Museum on a chilly Sunday afternoon and making this event such a success.  Additionally, we would like to thank for their guidance as to how to construct our sugar skulls!  Keep an eye out for future candymaking workshops at the Museum!

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October was certainly a busy month at the Museum as we hosted four fun workshops!  Throughout October, we hosted our “Holiday Head Start” workshop, designed to prepare participants for the holiday gift-giving season with fun, easy gifts to make at home and impress friends and family!  We began with Jeweled Soaps on October 13.  Participants learned the basics of glycerin soaps: how to melt, scent, color, and pour to create beautiful layered soaps to enjoy and to give!  On a chilly October morning, participants created their own soaps and experimented with different techniques to create beautiful, unique works of art that were almost too pretty to use!Image

The following week, we hosted “Bath and Body Creations,” creating our own scrubs and bath fizzies to enjoy on cold winter days and to soothe winter skin!  We made a Cappuccino oatmeal bath, vanilla sugar lip scrub, a coffee foot scrub, and chocolate body scrub—and left smelling delicious!  Holiday Head Start finished with Homemade Easy, focusing on creating baking mixes as beautiful as they are delicious!  We made an oatmeal-walnut-chocolate chip quick bread, gingerbread cookies, spicy Mexican hot chocolate, and mocha cocoa that will be especially warming on cold winter nights!

The finished products! Many thanks to Kim C. for the photograph!

We would like to thank everyone for participating in this series—our participants were as fun as coming up with the workshops!  Look forward to future fun workshop series!

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Art After Hours at Sisohpromatem Art Foundation Inc.

What a night!  The second stop on our Art After Hours tour of Lexington was at Sisohpromatem Art Foundation Inc.  Incorporated as a non-profit organization in 2003, Sisohpromatem has served children and the community for nearly a decade, nurturing and enriching children’s lives through participation in the arts.  Drawing its name from the word “metamorphosis” spelled backwards, the organization’s mission is to create a metamorphosis in children’s lives and “to help children develop into independent, creative, and responsible members of the community through participation in the arts.”  On the evening of October 17, we not only learned about Sisohpromatem’s mission, but also had the opportunity to exercise our creative muscles (and perhaps be a bit child-like in our enthusiasm!) when we toured the facility, met the staff, and created fun collages to take home!

Sisohpromatem Art Foundation Inc

Sisohpromatem is located in the Heritage Art Center, a beautiful, historic Bluegrass Trust building in the Jefferson Street neighborhood.  The panoramic windows let you peek at the wonderful, eclectic art inside (and offered us ample light by which to create some art of our own!)  We created collage faces using scraps from colorful magazines to make the facial features from unconventional materials, yielding beautiful if unearthly faces to take home.

Sisohpromatem is helmed by Sonja and Kenneth Brooks who have made this foundation a labor of love, and will be celebrating its tenth anniversary in January 2013.  Their dedication to the arts and to the community that they serve is apparent not only in their passion for their organization but also by the wonderful art and artists that they have produced.  We enjoyed this stop on our Art After Hours tour and thank everyone at Sisohpromatem for opening their organization to us and treating us like family!

For more information about Sisohpromatem Art Foundation Inc, please visit their website at  For more information about the Art After Hours program and to RSVP for future events, please visit the Art After Hours Facebook page at .  

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Get a Holiday Head Start with the Headley-Whitney!

This week, we’ve been preparing for our new workshop series, Holiday Head Start.  With fall in the air, it’s never too early to start preparing for the holidays, and we designed a workshop series to get participants ready for the gift-giving season by creating fun, thoughtful gifts to give to friends and family (and to indulge in for themselves!)

The lawn in front of the Headley-Whitney’s Jewel Room and Library were frosty this week!

We kick off the series October 13 with Jeweled Soaps.  Although we decided upon “jeweled” soaps because of our founder’s passion for jewelry design, Jeweled Soaps is actually an introduction to the art of soapmaking.  Using glycerin, we will create beautiful layered soap that will then be cut into gemstone shapes—perfect for adding a bit of sparkle to any holiday, and leaving people wondering just how you made them!  (Don’t worry though: they’re both beautiful and deceptively easy!)

On October 20, we will be recreating favorite spa treat with Bath and Body Creations.  We will be making fun, fizzy bath bombs to soften bath water for a soothing treat during the chilly Kentucky winters.  Additionally, we will be making sugar scrubs to keep you polished to perfection during the holiday season!

Holiday Head Start will finish up on October 27 with Homemade Easy, a workshop designed to teach participants how to share the warmth of the season with friends and family through one of its most decadent treats: baked goods!  We will be creating beautiful layered baking mixes to give to friends and family so they can share in favorite family recipes and enjoy fresh-baked treats and decadent holiday beverages with friends.

In addition to creating these fun gifts, we will also be creating fun packaging to impress your friends and family—you’ll be thrilled to say you did it yourself!

Holiday Head Start Workshops are $30 per workshop or $75 for the series.  Jeweled Soaps is Saturday, October 13; Bath and Body Creations is October 20; Homemade Easy is October 27.  All workshops run from approximately 9:00am-11:30am.  Preregistration is required.  Please call 859-255-6653 for more information and to register. 

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Farewell to the Ten-Thousand Springs Pavilion!

The Ten-Thousand Springs Pavilion arrived at our Museum in September 2011 after completing a 700-mile journey from Flushing, NY.  As a Smithsonian traveling exhibit, the Pavilion has logged many miles across the country, and its packaging and the dedicated team of volunteers that follow it around the country are as extraordinary as the Pavilion itself.

The Pavilion is assembled and disassembled like a large jigsaw puzzle: the pieces fit together seamlessly to create the enormous structure, and getting the pieces in and out of its storage crates is an equally large puzzle.  The Pavilion arrived at the Museum in twelve wooden storage crates, and the insides of the crates were amazingly detailed.  Each crate held multiple trays, divided to house each component of the Pavilion in its own special spot, nestled between layers of protective foam padding to cradle it on its journey across the country.  Even the trays were beautifully organized within the crate.  The team kept track of how trays fit within the crate using an ingenious system of cut playing cards—that way, there is only one possible orientation for the tray to fit within the crate!

In addition to the Smithsonian conservator in charge of the Pavilion, a dedicated team of volunteers follow it around the country, helping to assemble and disassemble the structure at each new location.  We saw many familiar faces from last September’s assembly again when the Pavilion came down in addition to several new admirers who came to watch the disassembly.  Many of the volunteers are carpenters and woodworkers who would like a closer look at how the Pavilion was crafted, and have quite literally crisscrossed the country alongside the Pavilion!

As promised, all of the pieces went back into the twelve crates the Pavilion arrived in and the Pavilion is awaiting transportation to its next destination.  In all, it took the team a day and a half to deconstruct the Pavilion and to put the crates into storage.  We are sad to see it move on, but can’t wait to follow its travels across the country and know that other audiences will enjoy the Pavilion as much as Lexington has.  The Pavilion will soon be on its way to Texas.  To see more pictures of the Pavilion’s deconstruction, check out our Facebook album!

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Jewelry Month at the Museum

September has been an especially fun month at the Museum.  In the spirit of our founder George Headley’s passion for jewelry, we declared September “Jewelry Month” and have had a fun series of workshops teaching a variety of fun techniques.

On September 8, we held our Retro Glamour Jewelry workshop.  We invited participants to bring pieces from their own collection to be combined and re-imagined into new statement jewelry to compliment their fall wardrobes.  Participants brought a bit of everything—from mismatched earrings, to old brooches, to favorite bracelets that have become too tight with age, in addition to pieces from our selection of costume jewelry that we repurposed into new jewelry.  After arranging and rearranging pieces into different configurations, we showed participants how to attach their designs to a thick, gold-toned chain to create entirely new styles!  The resulting pieces were truly unique, one-of-a-kind pieces that were distinctly modern while harkening back to a bygone era.  Best of all, everyone left with a completed piece to take home and show off!


On September 22, Kelly Graves of Whimsy Beading joined us for another workshop, this time teaching right angle bead-weaving with her gorgeous Nouveau Pearl necklace.  I was quite impressed at how easily this beautiful piece came together; normally one for preplanning, I was caught short and didn’t get a tutorial from Kelly until the evening before (and in a bustling restaurant no less!)  Nevertheless, I was amazed at how quickly this beautiful necklace came together to create a truly unique statement piece—and so were our participants!  All of our participants took home a beautiful new necklace to compliment their fall wardrobes.  Additionally, we had participants decide the design to be taught at the next class, selecting a beautiful Swarovski crystal and pearl pendant and earring set that we will be hosting on December 15, just in time for the holidays!

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We began the first stop of our autumn Art After Hours tour at The Living Arts & Science Center.  LASC was incorporated in 1968 (the same year that the Headley-Whitney was founded!) and has been going strong ever since, offering many fun, engaging programs throughout the community in addition to hosting art classes, exhibits, and more!

LASC is housed in a beautiful, historic facility.  Built in 1847 by George B. Kinkead (who became Abraham Lincoln’s lawyer in 1850), the Kinkead House stands at the corner of Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard and Fourth Street in historic downtown Lexington and played a very important role in Lexington’s history.  The House has been elegantly divided for modern times, housing beautiful exhibits for adults and children alike as well as four classrooms, and truly has something to suit every taste.

During our tour of the facility, we received a sneak peek of LASC’s new Discovery Exhibit.  Each year, the LASC completely outfits one of its rooms to suit a different science theme.  The Discovery Exhibit provides hands-on exploration of themes like The Architecture of Life, Energy on the Move, and has been everything from a desert to a cave, transforming each year to create an entirely new educational experience for visitors of all ages.  This year’s Discovery Exhibit is FOREST FINDINGS and within we found all the parts of a true forest!  A plentitude of activities allow children of all ages to explore the forest community.  From dressing up as forest creatures, to making leaf prints, and checking out the “canopy” from a ranger station, the Discovery Exhibit was a blast even for adults!  The exhibit even includes a slide to drop observers from the canopy back to the floor—and we proved that you’re never too old for a slide!

Our tour also took us to see Willie Rascoe’s exhibit, THE CORE OF NATURE’S BEAUTY: Art of an African American Folk Artist in the Gloria Singletary Gallery, the exterior exhibits, classroom space and art installations around the grounds of the facility.  The grounds are as beautiful as they are extensive, and there is truly something for everyone at the LASC.

Our journey continued upstairs where we painted masks for LASC’s Sixth Annual Festival del Dia de los Muertos celebration (The Day of the Dead Festival).  Each year, the LASC celebrates this colorful holiday with traditional dance, music, crafts, a candlelight parade, and more!  We decorated skeleton masks with paint and seeds to be put up at the Old Episcopal Burying Ground (the traditional destination of their Dia de los Muertos parade).  It was fun to see how other Art After Hours participants interpreted Dia de los Muertos and decorated their skulls!  The masks were purposely designed to evolve and change with the weather, and we can’t wait to see them installed at the cemetery!

The Living Arts & Science Center was definitely a fun stop for our first Art After Hours of the fall, and is truly a wonderful Lexington institution.  We enjoyed mingling and chatting with the staff while enjoying tasty finger sandwiches provided by Selma’s Catering, in addition to seeing many familiar faces from the Spring’s Art After Hours stops.  Be sure to join us for our next stop on October 17 at Sisophromatem Art Foundation!

For more information about The Living Arts & Science Center and their variety of programming, please visit their website at  For more information about Art After Hours and to RSVP for future events, please visit the Art After Hours Facebook page at .  

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Gearing up for Lexington Collects

We are very excited to be preparing for our upcoming exhibit about collections and collectors.  Entitled Lexington Collects, the exhibit will examine private collections from the Bluegrass from collectors of all ages—from children just beginning their collections to experienced, lifelong collectors.  We will take a look at not only what people collect but also why they collect, how their collections began, and how they maintain their collection.

Like all exhibits the idea was developed some time ago.  This week, we began to get the word out about our special exhibit.  This is a unique exhibit for the Museum in that we are asking members of the community to submit their collections to be part of the exhibit.  To let people know about this opportunity we started with promotional photos.

To find objects for the photographs we looked to our own family and friends.  Interestingly, several of our family and friends didn’t identify their objects as a collection; while a collector did have a group of similar objects, they didn’t identify the group as a collection because they weren’t particularly valuable, although they did have highly sentimental connotations.  One collector had amassed over 100 Pez dispensers during childhood.  Another had combined three generations-worth of buttons into one single collection, organized neatly by color.  Each had an interesting story, and we were fascinated to hear why these quasi-collectors began their collection, how they maintained it, and why they continued (or stopped) collecting.  We had a blast talking with our collectors, and then arranging and photographing their collections for our upcoming promotions.


In looking over the borrowed collections, we realized that all collections have a story, and indeed, that we had collections of our own that we simply hadn’t identified as collections.  Do you identify yourself as a collector?  What do you collect, and why do you collect it?  Do you want to share your collection with the community?  The application form for submitting a collection is available at

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Family Printing

We kicked off a new season of workshops for all-ages with a fun printmaking workshop to tie in with our newest exhibit, Realized in Wood: Contemporary Prints from China.  This exhibit showcases the work of ten different printmakers, highlighting scenes of everyday life using this centuries-old technique.  Traditionally, the woodblock is prepared by chipping away at the wood, creating patterns and images with the remaining raised areas that are then inked and printed onto either paper or wood.  This allows for a great deal of detail and creates remarkable prints that may be pressed again and again.  However, how can this centuries-old technique be adapted so that it can be enjoyed by all ages?


The answer is decidedly modern, and probably something you have lying around the home: Styrofoam!  Instead of creating our plates using traditional woodblocks, we updated our technique a bit by using special Styrofoam blocks that allowed us to create beautiful, detailed images using nothing but pens, pencils, and imagination!

ImageWe first brainstormed about our images before sketching them onto tracing paper.  All images must be etched onto the Styrofoam plate backwards, so after tracing, we simply inverted the tracing paper and then traced back over our designs so that they would appear in the correct order when we printed them.

ImageThen came the fun part: printing!  We used brayers and block printing ink to make our final prints.  We started on white paper, but many participants got creative, using colored construction paper and light colored ink to highlight their designs.

ImageBlock printing was definitely a fun, creative event!  Be on the look out for our next block printing workshop–on December 1, we’ll be making block printed holiday cards for the whole family!

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